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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: January ::
Re: Mad Mab Man
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0083  Wednesday, 28 January 1998.

[1]     From:   Nora Kreimer <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Jan 1998 09:32:45 -0300
        Subj:   RE: SHK 9.0082  Mad Mab Man

[2]     From:   Marilyn Bonomi <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Jan 1998 20:06:59 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0082  Mad Mab Man


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nora Kreimer <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Jan 1998 09:32:45 -0300
Subject: 9.0082  Mad Mab Man
Comment:        RE: SHK 9.0082  Mad Mab Man

I thought Zeffirelli's Mercutio was something like you thought of last
night. And I think it's the Mercutio I always have in mind when I teach
him.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn Bonomi <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Jan 1998 20:06:59 -0500
Subject: 9.0082  Mad Mab Man
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0082  Mad Mab Man

<<Mercutio is mentally ill, isn't he? <snip> I think
he might be bipolar.>>

No.  Not in my conception of the character, not in the speeches he
makes.  I had a bipolar brother; I have had bipolar students.
Mercutio's behavior is NOT bipolar.

<<He gets so carried away by his own fantastic imaginings in the Queen
Mab
speech that Romeo has to calm him down>>

That interpretation is the director's, not the dramatist's.  The text
does not indicate anything of the sort.  How the part is played
determines just how "carried away" he gets.

<,later he picks a fight with the best swordsman in Verona.>>

Later he leaps to his best friend's defense when he believes that the
best dueler (NOT the same thing as "swordsman"-and in Mercutio's opinion
not a particularly admirable fighter) is determined to destroy poor
impotent Romeo.  That's loyalty.  Whether it's foolish or not is
debatable, but insanity doesn't enter the picture.  In fact, Mercutio is
defeated not b/c he's less able but b/c the very person he's attempting
to defend interrupts the battle ("I was hurt under your arm!").

<<He's the quickest wit in the whole play, but I've known two
schizophrenics who were absolutely deadly with comebacks and insults.>>

So to be witty is to be mad?  I shudder at THAT definition!  Further,
schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are entirely different illnesses.

<<Has anybody ever played Mercutio this way?>>

The Zeffarelli movie plays 1.4 as Mercutio's loss of sanity... but I
wasn't convinced by that portrayal any more than I am by your argument.

I could make the argument that the "madness" from which Mercutio suffers
is the madness of love... hopeless love for Romeo, whom he sees
submitting not to himself but to the person Mercutio despises most:
Tybalt.

In fact, there's some decent textual evidence that what unmans Romeo
himself is NOT unrequited love for Rosaline but some other malady...
caused by "the blind bow-boy's butt-shaft" (2.4).  After all, Romeo
wants only the "satisfaction" of Juliet's "faithful vow" (2.2) rather
than even a kiss (despite how many directors play the first balcony
scene); and all he wants from Friar Lawrence is for him to "close
[their] hands with holy words,/Then love-devouring death do what he
dare,/It is enough [he] may but call her [his]" (2.6).

But insanity?  No.  Not in the text, not-if faithfully played-on the
stage.  Brilliant, even a bit irrational in his moods like so many
adolescents, Mercutio may be.  But he is neither bipolar nor
schizophrenic.

Still, I enjoy having the opportunity to argue the motivations of my
favorite characters; thanks for the opportunity!

Yours,
Marilyn B.
 

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